You don’t need to speak German to survive in an international city like Berlin. The English language has spread through the German capital like a drop of food dye diffusing through a glass of water.
But non-Germans who live in Berlin and solely rely on English to communicate are taking the easy way out and cheating themselves of a richer, fuller experience living in a foreign country.
So, how do you do it without spending a ton of money? You start slowly and you start online.
When first diving into a new language you need to have fun and keep motivation high. This makes an app like Duolingo perfect. You can learn a few words, gain familiarity with sentence structure (don’t worry, no one really knows why the Germans save the verb until the very end) and build your confidence while competing with friends. And you can do it while riding the bus or train.
Another option is Babbel, a German-based language learning app that introduces vocabulary and grammar, while letting you practice pronunciation. The app is a bit more serious compared to Duolingo, offering 15-minute lessons and a less playful interface.
The next step on your language learning journey is trying out apps were you interact with native speakers. Chatterbug, the new language learning app created by the founders of Github, measures your language skill and suggests a lesson plan that a native speaker can then use to personalize a lesson.
Tandem, also lets you speak with native speakers, but ditches the lesson plan. With the Tandem app you simply write to other users or video call them to practice pronunciation and have a real-time conversation on whatever topics interest you.
And what comes after mastering conversational German? Expanding into literature, of course!
Beelinguapp, a Berlin-based app, shows texts in two different languages side by side. The app also functions as an audiobook, with native speakers reading the texts aloud.
You won’t regret it. Learning German is one of the best ways to tap into the culture and impress locals, who greatly appreciate foreigners attempting to use their native tongue.
But for those of us who find the German language more foreign than Klingon, (that’s right, Klingon!) there is still hope: Waverly Labs’ earplugs can whisper translations into your ear.